Observations of the last decade

Alice Outwater

Julia Child wrote her last cookbook at 87 years old. Frank Wright worked until he was 91. Robert Marchand set a new world record for his age group in bicycling nearly 17 miles in one hour when he was 102 years old. I am unsure if the above leaves me encouraged or discouraged.

Memory loss can start gradually, even four to five years, or more, before it becomes evident to others. It appears to be a nuisance thing. You put down your car keys and can’t remember where. What was I wearing yesterday; maybe I put them in my jacket pocket? And the search goes on. Other areas may remain crystal clear in the brain.

This is what I call the Pesky Category. Then I’m at the desk paying bills, the phone rings and my attention is diverted. Oh, I better check the stove and monitor the vegetable dish. 

A neighbor drops in to chat. I need a new sheet of paper—the tax bill disappears under a pile on the desk. A week later a $300 late fee arrives. Now this is getting out of hand.

The rest of my life seems in order, but I must tend more carefully to details, especially concerning bills and payment. How can I put a new method in place?

My body seems cranky about starting the day. I make myself breakfast but find that I feel unsteady. So I return to bed for another two hours of sleep before getting dressed to go out. I am attentive to my reactions to see if it seems safe to drive. My atrial fibrillation seems marginally worse, so I’m on medication.

The doctor tells me no one gets into their ninth decade without some physical difficulty. As dusk arrives, the shadows on the road are bewildering. Cars with their headlights zip by and can be disorienting.

The number one killer for elderly men and women is heart disease, followed by cancer and unintentional injuries (falling). Tobacco is still the leading preventable cause in the world. Alzheimer’s comes in about tenth on the list. The most dangerous animal is the mosquito!

My personal prevention plan is to keep up to date on new information and adjust my days accordingly. Exercise is essential to keep the body cells in good shape. I prefer yoga (regular or chair yoga) and walking 15 to 30 minutes a day, tai chi and stretching. We have a broad choice of gyms and classes in the area. However, this takes constant self-discipline on my part.  If I splurge on too much activity one day, my body lets me know the next. It feels stiff and refuses to move easily. So I treat myself to quieter activities such as reading and writing at the computer until my body’s resiliency returns.

However, I make a point of getting out every single day—rain or shine.

Don’t forget a healthy diet, water, water, water and enough protein. I make a large pot of soup each week with fresh vegetables—no salt—but add different spices. I’m starved at 4 p.m. so heat up a small bowl to tide me over until suppertime.

Be smart, work with your body’s needs and get out to enjoy your favorite things regularly. Make sure you cultivate and see friends, laugh a bit and find some purpose in your days. Remember sharing with others is a gift that can offer unexpected returns. If nothing else it saves us from becoming self-focused, dull and complaining.

Everyone has personal struggles. Some areas are just plain difficult to handle. Grab your imagination and go for it. Boldly try a few new approaches until something clicks.

Getting in better shape and having good-enough energy will help it multiply. But none of this comes about in a happenstance way. It all takes determination and discipline.

“I’m not what happened to me. I’m what I choose to become.”
~ Carl Jung.